How to strike that balance?

linguini

Chirping
Jan 8, 2021
115
176
98
Bridgewater NJ (Central NJ)
My tenure as a chooks mom is just as young as my girs! I have only young hens, 6 laying, 2 seem to be imminent. They are all 6-7 months old (bought them from a farm at the end of June, they were at most 1-2 weeks old then).

We switched to layer feed when we spotted the first egg 2 months ago. I've noticed that they have been eating much less than they did before the switch - almost none! Since I've been letting them out in the yard most of the day, I thought perhaps free ranging too much was taking away their appetite for their regular feed. I stopped their treats, limited their yard time to 2-4 hours a day pending on weather, and made crumble-mash for them at the end of day. Concerning about not giving them enough calcium (the yard has only grass, nothing else), I started give them baked and ground egg shell mixed with the mash. They love the mash, and I started to make fermented feed for them after reading all the good things about fermented feed (only once/day at the end of the day). I am still not sure if I am giving them right amount of protein + calcium. All the layer feed seem to have only 16% protein. Should I give them more protein ? (meal worm, scrambled eggs, and I am tempted to give them some cat food after reading some posts.) Should I provide them a dish of oyster shell on the side? Should I continue mixing the egg shell in the mash? When can I resume their treats? The dry crumble consumption rate is still pitifully low. Should I switch to a different feed? Help! Guidance needed!
 

Aapomp831

Crowing
Oct 4, 2017
2,346
3,767
351
Lincolnton, NC
My tenure as a chooks mom is just as young as my girs! I have only young hens, 6 laying, 2 seem to be imminent. They are all 6-7 months old (bought them from a farm at the end of June, they were at most 1-2 weeks old then).

We switched to layer feed when we spotted the first egg 2 months ago. I've noticed that they have been eating much less than they did before the switch - almost none! Since I've been letting them out in the yard most of the day, I thought perhaps free ranging too much was taking away their appetite for their regular feed. I stopped their treats, limited their yard time to 2-4 hours a day pending on weather, and made crumble-mash for them at the end of day. Concerning about not giving them enough calcium (the yard has only grass, nothing else), I started give them baked and ground egg shell mixed with the mash. They love the mash, and I started to make fermented feed for them after reading all the good things about fermented feed (only once/day at the end of the day). I am still not sure if I am giving them right amount of protein + calcium. All the layer feed seem to have only 16% protein. Should I give them more protein ? (meal worm, scrambled eggs, and I am tempted to give them some cat food after reading some posts.) Should I provide them a dish of oyster shell on the side? Should I continue mixing the egg shell in the mash? When can I resume their treats? The dry crumble consumption rate is still pitifully low. Should I switch to a different feed? Help! Guidance needed!
There is no need for layer feed if you are feeding oyster shells - but they should be on the side only. Extra calcium has nothing to do with a chicken laying; it only helps aid in hard, healthy shells. Don’t worry about how much your chickens are eating. Chickens regulate their own feed and won’t starve themselves just because they don’t “like” a particular food. I personally leave out Flock Raiser at all times, let them free range all day long and give them a sprinkling of scratch and or mealworms once a day. That’s all - don’t overthink it. It’s easy to tell if anyone is underweight by feeling their breast to bone ration
 

rosemarythyme

Scarborough Fair
Premium Feather Member
Jul 3, 2016
13,979
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982
WA, Pac NW
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I think you're overthinking it... and that maybe they don't like the layer feed dry. I assume the mash is made with the same layer feed? If they'll eat it wet/fermented, then offer it that way (in morning is my own preference), and keep dry pellets available if they want them.

Discontinue the eggshell mix in and let them pick out the calcium they need on the side. And you can let them get back to foraging in the yard.
 

linguini

Chirping
Jan 8, 2021
115
176
98
Bridgewater NJ (Central NJ)
I think you're overthinking it... and that maybe they don't like the layer feed dry. I assume the mash is made with the same layer feed? If they'll eat it wet/fermented, then offer it that way (in morning is my own preference), and keep dry pellets available if they want them.

Discontinue the eggshell mix in and let them pick out the calcium they need on the side. And you can let them get back to foraging in the yard.
Thank you so much! I will try morning mash - the leftover from last night all turned frozen!
 

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